"One can tell if one is happy by listening to the wind. This latter reminds the unhappy of the fragility of their house and pursues them in fitful sleep and violent dreams. To the happy, it sings the song of their safety and security: its raging whistle registers the fact that it no longer has any power over them."
December 28, 2012 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Minima Moralia: Reflections from the Damaged Life is a book written by German sociologist and philosopher Theodor W. Adorno during his exile in California in the 1940s. Translator Dennis Redmond has released his translation under creative commons (here is the same translation set up in a more book-like way). In his essay Promiscuous Reading, Mark O'Connell talks about his habit of never finishing books, but an exception being "this captivatingly strange and mordant text" Minima Moralia, "a thematically wayward aggregation of a hundred and fifty-three short essays and aphorisms that darts restlessly from one subject matter to the next, its fleeting yet intense engagements rarely spanning more than a page and a half." Among the subject matters Adorno addresses is the ethics of writing, which has reverberated down through the years, and is often set up in opposition to George Orwell's thought, as recounted by James Miller in the essay Lingua Franca.

Here are three of the chapters from the book, one from each of the sections.
On parle francais. How closely sex and language are intermingled becomes apparent when reading pornography in another language. No dictionary is needed to read Sade in the original. Even the most refined expressions for that which is indecent, whose awareness is imparted by no school, no parents’ house, and no literary experience, are understood intuitively, just as in childhood, when the most euphemistic expressions and observations regarding sexual matters shoot together into the correct representation. It is as if the imprisoned passions explode, upon being called by these names, blind words like the wall of one’s own repression, striking violently and irresistibly into the innermost cell of meaning, which it itself resembles.

Where the stork brings children from. – Every human being has an archetype out of a fairy-tale, one need only look long enough. Over there a beauty asks the mirror, if she is the fairest of them all, like the Queen in Snow White. She who bristles and is nitpicky to death, was modeled after the goat described in the verse, “I’m so stuffed / can’t eat any more, meeeh, meeeh”. A man who is sorrowful and yet unbowed resembles the crinkled little old lady gathering wood, who meets the Good Lord without recognizing Him, and is blessed with bounty, because she helped Him. Another went out into the world as a fine young fellow to make his fortune, dispatched a number of giants, but had to die nonetheless in New York. One walks through the wilderness of the city like Little Red Riding Hood and brings the grandmother a slice of cake and a bottle of wine, yet another undresses during love-making as shamelessly childlike as the girl with the coins like silver stars. The clever one becomes aware of his strong animal soul, does not wish to perish along with his friends, forms a group of Bremen city musicians, leads them into the robbers’ den, outwits the crooks there, but wants to go back home. The frog prince, an incorrigible snob, stares at the princess with eyes of longing and cannot stop hoping that she will rescue him.

Golden Gate. – What dawns on those who are embarrassed or spurned, illuminates as harshly as the violent pain which wracks the body. They recognize, that in the innermost core of deluded love, which knows nothing of this and may know nothing, lives the demand of what is undeluded. They have been wronged; they derive their claim of justice from this and must at the same time reject it, for what they wish, can only come out of freedom. In such urgent necessity, those who are rejected become human beings. Just as love inalienably betrays the generality to the particular, by which alone the generality is honored, so too does the generality now turn fatally against love, as the autonomy of those who are nearest. Precisely the rejection, by which the generality asserts itself, appears to the individual as being excluded from the generality; whoever loses love, feels deserted by all, which is why they despise consolation. In the senselessness of the withdrawal they come to feel what is untrue of all merely individual fulfillment. Thereby however they awaken to the paradoxical consciousness of the generality: of the inalienable and unimpeachable human right, to be loved by the beloved. With their petition, founded on no title or claim, they appeal to an unknown court, which out of mercy accords to them what belongs to them and yet does not belong to them. The secret of justice in love is the sublation of rights, to which love points with speechless gestures. “So must love, deceived / silly yet everywhere be”. [lines by Hölderlin from Tränen, “Tears”]
posted by Kattullus (31 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
I cannot understand or appreciate this kind of thing. I glaze over after about two sentences. Either a) I am really stupid, b) postmodernism is a scam to funnel money from the productive classes to the parasitical academy, or c) somebody is a very very bad translator.
posted by dydecker at 10:02 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Jephcott translation published by Verso is really terrific, and well worth the few dollars. And the book is entirely worth the effort it demands; it took me about a year to read it the first time and I'm convinced that's the right way to do it.

also, phooey on the spurious "the" in the subtitle: Reflections on Damaged Life is much better
posted by RogerB at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2012

or d) self-delusion about the work they're actually doing.

I speak as someone who spent a few years planning on making a career out of this sort of philosophy and doing this sort of philosophy. In retrospect, I can only laugh and be embarrassed when I come across such brazen claims as: " 'lucidity, objectivity, and concise precision' are merely 'ideologies' that have been 'invented' by 'editors and then writers' for 'their own accommodation.' "
posted by SollosQ at 10:21 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

all of you arguing aesthetics while claiming that aesthetics is effete and self-deluded: sinner, know thyself!

(I've been meaning to try reading MM again... didn't really get into it last time. but really, don't make a fetish of it, but sometimes clarity enforces an ideology rather than the other way around.)
posted by ennui.bz at 10:28 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

And after looking more carefully at some of my favorite sections in this Redmond online translation, I'd really strongly encourage interested readers to seek out the Jephcott translation instead. The difference is absolutely night and day, both in comprehensibility and in style.
posted by RogerB at 10:33 AM on December 28, 2012

My undergrad thesis was on this book :)
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:54 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another went out into the world as a fine young fellow to make his fortune, dispatched a number of giants, but had to die nonetheless in New York.

This is, indeed, a very sad story.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:57 AM on December 28, 2012

postmodernism is a scam to funnel money from the productive classes to the parasitical academy

Adorno isn't a postmodernist. He would have been appalled - appalled! - by the suggestion, just as he was appalled by the swinging sixties students who trashed his office and called him bourgeois. Adorno is a modernist - all about the marxism and the truth-claims and the life in a great 20th century metropolis and psychoanalysis and the rise of fascism.

1. Just because a text is difficult or obscure - to you! - does not mean that it is "postmodern". Break out the Hegel someday if you don't believe me.

"Postmodernism is a difficult and obscure scam by tenured radicals" is basically a canard of the right, not because they give a good goddamn for the actual concerns of postmodernism but because they rightly suspect that people who are into postmodern theory are likely to be critical of the mid-20th-century white straight male consensus. The right tends to lump marxism in with post-modernism for this same reason.

2. Not all texts need to be accessible to all audiences. Not all audiences need or want all texts. Just because something is hard to read or requires some familiarity with related work does not mean that it is worthless, fake or elitist. We would never say that because you need a physics background to understand a publication in a physics journal therefore physics is an elitist scam, but we feel confident in saying that because it's helpful to have read some Freud before reading the anti-Freud work of Deleuze and Guattari, somehow A Thousand Plateaus is a dodgy and useless book that should never be read by anyone...for example.

3. You don't need to read books you don't want to read. For years I felt guilty because I was not reading Derrida, could not seem to get into Derrida, etc etc. And then it broke upon me like dawn upon the waves that I did not have to read Derrida - I was not a lesser person because I read something else, Derrida was not especially germane to my concerns, and besides, the world was full of books that did speak to me.

4. We don't need to be angry at difficult books for being difficult. Difficult books only threaten us if we decide to feel guilty and ashamed for not reading them.

4.5. Many "difficult" books become easy (or at least easier) when you're engaged in serious study and read the works that the books comment on. Anti-Oedipus? Well, let me tell you that it became much easier when I'd read the Freud that it referenced - things that had been infuriatingly opaque to me were suddenly clear! Dr. Schreiber? I knew from Dr. Schreiber!

5. Sometimes you just don't like something - not because it's bad, not because it is too hard, not because you couldn't read it if you took the trouble, but just because you don't like it.

6. The best advice I ever got for reading hard books, from someone who had somewhat inexplicably assigned Foucault's The Order Of Things to a class which had never read any theory before: just keep plugging away and get what you can from it, without setting up an image of the perfect reader - who understands everything - in your head to deter you.

I feel like the Jephcott translation is easier to read, too.

Minima Moralia is actually really fun - there's lots of random aphorisms about movies and stuff.

It's interesting that Adorno is set up in opposition to Orwell - they are both such grumpy guys who place so much weight on lucidity, and Orwell would have just hated the sixties if he'd lived. He probably would have found Adorno too much with the prostitutes and pleasures of the Continent, though.
posted by Frowner at 11:04 AM on December 28, 2012 [57 favorites]

I mean, really they weren't "swinging sixties" - they were student radicals. But they were pretty swinging compared to dear, dear Teddy.
posted by Frowner at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The question of clarity and mass comprehension vs. technical language and jargon really depends on whether one is speaking of political writing and political philosophy or writing and philosophy in general. They bear about as much relationship to each other as masonry does to sculpture.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:49 AM on December 28, 2012

I came in here to say a lot of what Frowner already said, so I'll say something else.

Critics of dense and obtuse theory are all correct, in that, it is useless, all of it is-- but only when it is studied without an application in mind. Philosophy for philosophy's sake is just that, just as a shovel is not much of a mantle piece. But philosophy brought to work can move mountains, critical theory held by the handle is one of our sharpest knives, and political science brought to practice has long been regarded as a weapon of mass destruction, and rightly so. Philosophy, and all theory really, is much like Mathematics in this way, studied on its own it is a sort of masturbatory pastime, but studied with a problem in mind, then, and only then, does it shine. So, yeah, Kant is arguing about what doesn't exist, none of these books are about anything, why can't they write about anything that matters, yes, yes, yes, all you critics are right, but neither is a shovel about ditches, or a book on Riemannian manifolds much about space-time. Utility is in the hand that holds it. Like they said back at Bell Labs: your job isn't to worry about what they're working on, your job is to either keep them working or put their work to work.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:58 AM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Vielen Dank! I came to Adorno while getting into Paul Celan et al. via Adorno's „Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch“ statement.

Excellent post.
posted by vkxmai at 12:19 PM on December 28, 2012

A glowing review: a guy who never finishes a book finished this one! We4ll I never finished reading this post and I usually finish reading posts.
Exiled to California? Is that the European sentence for those writing unreadable sentences?
posted by Postroad at 12:19 PM on December 28, 2012

I speak as someone who spent a few years planning on making a career out of this sort of philosophy and doing this sort of philosophy. In retrospect, I can only laugh and be embarrassed when I come across such brazen claims as: " 'lucidity, objectivity, and concise precision' are merely 'ideologies' that have been 'invented' by 'editors and then writers' for 'their own accommodation.' "

I don't know, it always struck me that the principle underlying a lot of Adorno's bold assertions, like the one you mention, is that to get the reader to really start scrutinizing a deeply internalized set of beliefs around something like "lucidity" the writer has to provide a shock of significant magnitude so as to reframe the issue. The actual content of that shocking bit can be argued over later, and the precision of the statement is second to its effectiveness as a sort of philosophical dynamite that opens up new caverns of thought. This can be a more or less facile game depending on how it's played, but I don't think Adorno does it cheaply.

Amusingly, if you accept the effectiveness of that particular gambit, then the fact that provocation can be more valuable than precision in some instances is a useful component in a straightforward argument of Adorno's original assertion about lucidity as ideology.
posted by invitapriore at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

I came in here to say a lot of what Frowner already said, so I'll say something else.

Although actually I look at what I wrote and wish I had not been so bitey, partly because I once made a joke in ignorance about Nietzsche (as who has not, really?) and was smacked down pretty hard and unnecessarily. Incredible as it may seem, this did not lead to me reading Nietzsche -who I think I would totally have enjoyed even with no other theoretical background - but instead led to a lot of shame, anxiety and generally bad things.

So anyway.

I guess what I really want to say is that in the US* I think a lot of us learn to be angry at and uncomfortable around difficult texts - we feel like either the text is legitimate, in which case we're stupid and useless if we can't read it, or the text must be established as illegitimate so we're not stupid and it's just a con job and we should attack it. I don't think this is anti-intellectualism, per se. I think it's more about competitiveness and individualism, the way we're all taught to feel that we are inadequate if we can't do absolutely everything ourselves for ourselves, even down to reading a piece of critical theory. It's something I've struggled with all my life, and only when I've been able to beat the fear and anger have I been able to read patiently and build up enough of a corpus of interests and knowledge that I can stop worrying about reading and just read.

By which I mean, dydecker, that I don't think 1, 2, or 3 is true - I think that either you should get obsessed by mid-century modernist philosophy until you find that you do like Adorno or else you probably have other intellectual projects that are just as compelling and should put down the Minima Moralia and never look back.

*I read some kind of blurb on the back of Anti-Oedipus that said "All Paris is reading and discussing this book!"...and realized that one would never say that "All Manhattan is reading and discussing Alain Badiou's latest!" or even "All Manhattan is reading and discussing Alain de Botton's latest!"
posted by Frowner at 12:43 PM on December 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't think it's anti-intellectualism. It's more a kind of positivism: the text either means something or doesn't, so before I work out what it means exactly, I'd like to find out if it means.

This is silly if you have a nuanced view on the meaning of "meaning," but positivism and nuance are not the best of friends.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:51 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

yet another undresses during love-making as shamelessly childlike as the girl with the coins like silver stars.
Girls with eyes like silver stars seem abundant enough in traditional tales, in my experience, but not girls with "the coins" like silver stars-- but I might be able to imagine a machine translator coming up with "coins" when confronted with the German for "silver stars."

Can anyone offer an alternative translation of this passage for perspective?
posted by jamjam at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2012

Can anyone offer an alternative translation of this passage for perspective?

The original sentence is
Eine geht durch die Wildnis der Stadt wie Rotkäppchen und bringt der Großmutter ein Stück Kuchen und eine Flasche Wein, wieder eine entkleidet sich bei der Liebe so kindlich schamlos wie das Mädchen mit den Sterntalern.
The 'coins like silver stars' came from 'den Sterntalern'. As far as I can tell, das Mädchen mit den Sterntalern a reference to this fairy tale, which I'm not familiar with. Wiki suggests the fairy tale is usually translated as Star Money or Star T(h)alers (talers were a type of coin made from silver and apparently where the word 'dollar' comes from).

My feeling is that the translator dropped the ball pretty badly by missing the reference. I don't have the background to know whether Adorno expects the reader to get the reference or just realise it's a reference to something (I have no idea how obscure the fairy tale is), but I definitely wasn't expecting to write this comment by looking up the German, tossing 'Sterntaler' into (US) Google and finding a Wikipedia article for part of the Kinder und Hausmärchen as the third hit.
posted by hoyland at 2:19 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I did miss something obvious on the Wikipedia page--it's well-known enough that there were a series of stamps depicting the fairy tale.
posted by hoyland at 2:24 PM on December 28, 2012

"All Manhattan is reading and discussing Alain de Botton's latest!"

Well thank god for that.
posted by kenko at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2012

Minima Moralia is such a fantastic book, beautifully literary, a philosophical text that is conscious of and playful with form in a way that too few are. I read it just after finishing a hideous BA in philosophy from, like, the epicentre of awful postivist Ang-Am posturing, and the words of it felt the way water feels on your tongue when you are about to pass out from thirst. Adorno is certainly difficult at times, even often, but it always surprises me when MM is spoken of as difficult because to me it reads both like captivating fiction and like tremendous, bald-faced honesty, an upfrontness about the hideousness of much in life and a pithy, sardonic puncturing of the smug emptiness of much of what passes for intellectual thought in the English-speaking world. It's shot through with the emotions of exile, the horrible feeling of being apart from everything that matters to you, of existing without ever becoming comfortable, and for that reason it speaks to outsiders, to the lonely and depressed and alienated. It's such a miserable book but it made me happier than I'd been in years when I found it.
posted by Acheman at 3:17 PM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Philosophy, and all theory really, is much like Mathematics in this way, studied on its own it is a sort of masturbatory pastime...

I get, and even self-effacingly, agree with this statement. I mean really, for what good is combinatorial set theory or differential topology? In the same way that for what good is an intentionalist theory of perception or a metaphysics based off of an intuitionistic logic?

People can read and discuss Adorno all they want. As Frowner mentions, I'm free to disregard such discussions and works because I am free to read what I am interested in. What I hate to see is work such as Adorno's lumped in with mathematical and philosophical work, i.e. the most analytic of the sciences.

Not all texts need to be accessible to all audiences. Not all audiences need or want all texts. Just because something is hard to read or requires some familiarity with related work does not mean that it is worthless, fake or elitist. We would never say that because you need a physics background to understand a publication in a physics journal therefore physics is an elitist scam...

To the same point as above, the difficulty and rigor of a philosophical text is similar to the difficulty and rigor of a mathematical text. Yet the difficulty and rigor of Adorno's and Derrida's works are not similar to the difficulty and rigor of philosophy and mathematics.
posted by SollosQ at 3:35 PM on December 28, 2012

It's somewhat paradoxical to claim that the difficulty of a philosophical text is not similar to the difficulty of philosophy.
posted by kenko at 3:40 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is philosophy worth reading? It depends what you're asking. The key to reading anything is a good interesting question.

In fact, all books require a question, and, luckily, most books provide them. Good interesting books provide good interesting questions, 'will Tarzan survive,' 'how do I program in Ruby,' or 'how do I cook lobster?' Boring books often provide you with uninteresting questions, and frustrating books may not even provide a question at all (except perhaps 'why did anyone write this?'). Usually the question is provided for you during the introduction, opening paragraphs, back cover, in the title itself, or given to them by culture. These provided questions are often so hard to miss that most people don't even notice they were ever provided them. People just read assuming that it is the most natural thing in the world to ask a book about a lobster.

Now the question the reader is provided is rarely the same question that the author sought to answer. An author of a book on Ruby does not lure you through the book promising an answer to the question of 'how do I write a book about Ruby.' Now in truth all books on Ruby are answers to that exact question, but most of us don't notice, and anyway that probably isn't what we are asking. Instead, we ask what interests us, and the author interests the reader with a question, often a question different from the one that the book itself is an answer to. Hopefully, or so hopes the publisher, the question the author fascinates the reader with is one relevant to a wider audience than just non-fiction authors of instructional material. Still, somethings slip through the cracks.

Unlike most genres, Philosophy, much like Mathematics, provides the reader only with the question the philosopher was engaged in. Unfortunately, just as very few people are in the business of writing instructional material, even fewer are in the business of writing treatises on ontology, or proving the properties of infinitesimal quantities. The Philosopher, like the Mathematician, writes as if his writing was only relevant to other Philosophers. He does this only because he himself has no idea what other questions his answers answer, he only knows it answered his questions, and he has only prepared an exposition of how he answered them. But not many of us care about how to outline the limitations of metaphysics, perform dialectic legerdemain, or distinguish a whole from its parts, and those of us who do are rightly recognized by our friends as possessed by peculiar curiosities.

But, the thing is, philosophical texts welcome other questions, especially questions on topics less curious to you to be curious about. Bergson has a lot to tell you about Proust, if you interested in asking. You can ask Nietzsche about his opinions on Rational Choice Theory, if that is your thing, but he'll discuss the Batman just as readily. Peter Sloterdijk knows all about voter turn out, he'd be happy to explain Ohio, or hipsters fashion, or organizational change. Heidegger has all sorts of answers to your questions about video games, just ask him about the Wii remote, or if cars are your thing, then he has some words to say about Formula-1. Socrates understands your love life, he has some advice for you if you'll listen. Georges Bataille has tips on managing internet trolls and limiting flame wars, all you have to do is muscle him. Carl Schmitt can explain terrorism, his views are dim, but maybe you are uncomfortable in a managerial position, he has thoughts on that too. You can even let Gilles Deleuze tell you about Homestuck, I'll tell you though he isn't too hot about Vriska.

But for them to answer any of these questions, to understand their answers you must first understand how they answered their own questions. Suddenly, now what was a moment ago useless blather comes in clear, like your name said at a party, or a radio tuning in after an overpass. Before you had a question to ask him Meillassoux was but waxing frenchly about this and that, glazing your eyes thick with layers of sap, now, asked a question he is alive, cleverly twisting, guiding and inspiring you with answers and charming anecdotes. He shares his thoughts on problems that were nagging you too, objectivity, scientific method, the possibility of redemption. It raises more questions, but new questions, some Meillassoux cannot answer, some he can.

And, what is more, by asking books such personal questions you find out that every book can come alive, even the dreariest, especially the dreariest. Every text welcomes other questions, they may answers those questions that the author did not prepare, they may not answer your questions well, even philosophical texts won't always, but they have answers, and you'll have new questions, and with questions, more answers, with more questions more answers, with more answers more questions, and off you go spinning, spiraling wild where ever.

You'll soon want to tell the world what you found out, so many blogs do just that, but here you may easily repeat what you had criticized the philosophers for doing. The answers to the questions you've asked may be of no interest to anyone and, your friends', they'll worry, you've clearly been possessed by peculiar curiosities. They may wish for your good health, a speedy recovery. But the fact that what questions you've answered may have provided answers so useless has nothing to do with the philosophers, your new muses, nor anything to do with the questions you asked. To the question of whether a question will lead to answers of use, that question can only be answered by asking. Just as with everything else the lamentable question will it be worth it? Is one you can certainly guess, but you'll only know by asking.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:46 PM on December 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yeah. We have a rotten liner in our chimney, so a windy night can mean a non-functioning furnace a few nights later.

I worry about this, but not a tremendous amount.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:02 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I generally do not enjoy reading philosophy (mostly because it seems necessary to have studied philosophy in depth to sufficiently appreciate it, and I haven't, so I don't), but I'll be damned if I'm not a big ol' sucker for a good aphorism. It's basically just observational stand-up comedy.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:56 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much, Frowner, You've articulated, far better than I ever could, what I want to say to whenever difficult continental texts are trotted out as strawman examples of intellectual laziness or corruption in academia.

I do have to say this, though. As someone who likes Derrida and Delueze/Guattari and has read Hegel's Phenomenology (though who can be sure if one has ever really read that thing for sure?), Ardono's difficultly fills me with rage. I don't know why. Maybe it's the modernist severity. I feel like the text is trying to strangle me; I find it suffocating and claustrophobic in a way I've never found any other writing.

I don't remember which book it was (maybe Negative Dialectics?), but the one book of his I really tried in earnest to read, I eventually threw across the room in a fit of rage. Then I broke down in tears, realizing that I had been utterly, completely defeated. I have never had that reaction to any other book.
posted by treepour at 11:23 PM on December 28, 2012

The thing about Adorno is that he isn't building anything. You need to read him like you listen to your clever friend that always doubts your friendship. I dunno, I have a few of those maybe you don't, but the idea here is that you read Adorno playfully, have patience with his tantrums, raise your eyebrows at him when he shocks you, and try your best not to get riled. It isn't that he means all of it, or that he doesn't mean any of it, it is just that he is very insecure and wants to make sure you'll stick with him even at his worst. Adorno has a lot of good thoughts, but they have yet to be systematized, ordered, and thought about seriously. His thoughts need to be given more time than he himself has given them, his thoughts need to be nurtured. If you read him assuming he has already done the work and that you are to just try to make sense of it, that you are his student, then you are misunderstanding the relationship. This I think is why he is so fruitful for dissertations and essays and such. The relationship with Adorno is best understood as friends. His thoughts are fascinating, useful seeds of a greater tree of thought, he is a Hume for some future Kant, or a Schiller for some Hegel. He should never be misunderstood as a master.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:02 AM on December 29, 2012 [15 favorites]

That's wonderfully helpful, TwelveTwo. Thank you. I may approach him again, keeping in mind what you just said.
posted by treepour at 12:58 AM on December 29, 2012

Minima Moralia is a book I read into every year. It first grabbed my brain in grad school, when I'd just discovered the Frankfurt School, and it wouldn't let go. That combination of despair, hyperactive topic-shifting, provocation, and ambition really worked for me.

Later on, I brought it with me into a war zone. Maybe not the best book there.
posted by doctornemo at 4:14 PM on December 30, 2012

Thanks very much for posting this. Minima Moralia is an Adorno book that I've yet to break into and this had inspired me to finally do so. When I was doing my philosophy undergrad and writing a thesis on Wittgenstein and new music in the 50s and 60s, I drew a lot from Adorno's Philosophy of New Music and Aesthetic Theory and became quite enthralled with those works. For anyone mildly interested in modernist music, especially Schoenberg v Stravinsky, expression v formalism, etc., he is essential reading.

I also love that in his exile years he lived just down the road from Stravinsky and Schoenberg, three people all living in exile in LA, all quite concerned with each other, and none of them every hung out, really. Kind of a shame.

Granted, he was of course a giant asshole. And I find myself, when reading Adorno, feeling like, 'hey man, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole.' I mean, the guy honestly felt that the "people" shouldn't hear Beethoven because they couldn't possibly truly appreciate it, and, well, that sort of goes against everything I'm about.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:39 PM on January 8, 2013

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